Superb FairywrenEclipse plumage

The Superb Fairywren (Malurus cyaneus), sometimes spelt Superb Fairy-wren is a small bird with a long tail, usually held cocked. The tail of both the male and female bird is usually blue, except in the juveniles, which have brown tails.

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) © Dorothy Latimer
Male Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) © Dorothy Latimer

Breeding males have a pale blue crown, cheek, and back with a thick black line that extends from the bill through the eyes and around the back of the head. The non-breeding males are a grayish-brown with black bills and bright blue tails.

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) © Dorothy Latimer
Female Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) © Dorothy Latimer

The tails of the females bird are also blue, but not as strong as the males. The female have a reddish bill. The lores (the areas from the bill, on either side and extending to the front of the eyes) on the female bird is a reddish colour.

A young bird just starting to get his adult plumage ready for the coming season. I have seen these birds doing the furgling thing. A male bird from another group arrives with a yellow petal in it’s beak, whereupon the local dominant male allows him to have his way with all his females. Furgling is a form of kleptogomy (literally “marriage theft”) observed during the breeding season in Superb Fairy-wrens Malurus cyaneus. I guess this prevents inbreeding.

Author Marc Newman
Young male Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) © Marc Newman
Young male Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus), Stanthorpe QLD © Marc Newman

Here is a “Jenny” or female. The ‘coloured’ males are often accompanied by a band of brown ‘jenny wrens’, often assumed to be a harem of females, but a proportion of them are males which have not yet attained their breeding plumage.

Female Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) © Marc Newman
Female Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus), Stanthorpe QLD © Marc Newman

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Informal: Gnathostomata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Suborder: Passeri
  • Informal: Passerida
  • Family: Maluridae
  • Subfamily: Malurinae
  • Genus: Malurus
  • Subgenus: infrageneric Malurus
  • Species: Malurus cyaneus

Footnote & References

  1. Malurus (Malurus) cyaneus (Ellis, 1782), Superb Fairy-Wren, Atlas of Living Australia, https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:0f520c9b-90ac-4a0b-bc2e-800b4f5a2665
  2. Superb Fairywren, Malurus cyaneusd, eBird, https://ebird.org/species/supfai1

Superb FairywrenEclipse plumage

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